Fourteen years after a binational agreement between Canada and the United States led to the use of preclearance facilities at select airports, a legislative push is on to expand the program to other modes of travel between the two countries. These facilities allow people traveling to the United States (U.S. citizens and residents, as well as foreign nationals) to clear U.S. immigration and customs from their departure point rather than their arrival point. They currently operate at eight Canadian airports.
Canada and the United States have long been each other’s most important energy partners, with annual trade between the two countries in this economic sector at nearly $100 billion. Cross-border pipelines bring natural gas and oil south to major U.S. markets, and two Midwestern states, Minnesota and North Dakota, imported 12 percent of their electricity from Canada in 2014.
“North America is an integrated market,” notes Dan D’Autremont, speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan.
But leaders at the federal, state and provincial levels are taking steps now to deepen the two countries’ relationship, this time with an emphasis on sharing information and working more closely on innovations to reshape the future of energy policy and energy use across the entire continent.
The Midwest is not known as a center of solar energy development, but in fact, electricity from the sun is being generated across the region. And at the same time, perceptions about solar energy are changing — including which parts of the country can be leaders in further developing and using this renewable power source.Of the top 10 solar-producing states in the nation, for example, three are in the Northeast...
Within days after a World Trade Organization decision in December authorizing substantial retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico, the long-simmering trade dispute over country-of-origin labeling ended.
After several years of discussion that produced no solution, the U.S. Congress and the Department of Agriculture responded to the ruling by abolishing the labeling requirement.
Most legislatures do not have firm rules in place, and nearly all committee witnesses still make their statements in person, according to a recent CSG Midwest survey of the region’s legislative service agencies. However, most states in the Midwest do provide remote testimony as an option in certain situations — especially those in which an invited committee guest faces travel-related obstacles.
For most new state legislators, only a few weeks separate their November election victories and their first day in office. There is a lot to learn in that short time frame — everything from the legislative process and constituent services, to information about the staffing and resources available to them.
Orienting these new members, then, is crucial to helping make the legislative branch run smoothly, especially in states and in election years with high rates of turnover due to term limits and other factors. Offered in every Midwestern state legislature, new-member orientations are run by nonpartisan staff, often with oversight from legislative leaders or a joint or bipartisan legislative committee.
The NEXUS trusted-traveler initiative is helping people travel more seamlessly between the United States and Canada, but policy experts say program enrollment has been hampered by an inconvenient, unclear application process. Once accepted into the program, NEXUS members use designated lanes at land borders (and machines at airports) that speed their entry process. These travelers have a NEXUS card that can be scanned to retrieve all of the relevant personal data needed by a border inspector.
Veterans treatment courts operate in most states in the Midwest, and there are more than 200 nationally. Most of these are run by county or other local court systems, and the treatment court usually convenes once a week, depending on the need. Currently, about 11,000 veterans are being served by these courts.
First adopted in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2008, veterans treatment courts are based on the drug-court model, and also include features of mental health courts. These courts integrate alcohol and drug treatment, as well as mental health services, into the justice system.
Two years ago, an explosive fire caused by a rail tanker car carrying crude oil took 47 lives and destroyed much of the downtown Québec city of Lac Megantic. A number of nonfatal fires involving oil-carrying trains have followed, most recently this year in Illinois and North Dakota. These incidents have raised safety concerns on both sides of the border, as well as this question: What can governments do to prevent the accidents from occurring? This spring, a mix of new federal and state standards were unveiled that set new rules for tanker cars and what is being loaded on them.
A year ago, officials from all three branches of South Dakota government began taking a close, critical look at the state’s juvenile justice system. The working group didn’t like what it saw. “What we found is that South Dakota was an outlier nationally,” Sen. Alan Solano says. “While juvenile commitments were declining,” he adds, “South Dakota had the second-highest incarceration rate in the country in 2011, a rate of 385 youth per 100,000.” Further, that high commitment rate was not connected to a correspondingly high rate of violent crime, and South Dakota’s juvenile offenders were staying longer in out-of-home placements than they had in the past. Those placements were costly (anywhere from $41,000 to $144,000 per bed); were often for misdemeanors, probation violations and status offenses (such as truancy and underage drinking); and were not necessarily effective in treating young people (community-based supervision tends to yield better results).